Dr. Nesburn and Dr. Lbachir BenMohamed, an associate professor of immunology and the founder and head of the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology in the Department of Ophthalmology at UC Irvine, whose research is being funded by DEF and the NIH, are working on a way to stop the virus before it is activated from the brain.
Nesburn and BenMohamed
are making a "lipopeptide" vaccine, which is composed of small parts selected from the most responsive glycoproteins and chemically linked to a lipid molecule (a fatty acid molecule normally present in the body), which replaces the toxic external adjuvant.
What's more, BenMohamed
said, the lipopeptide vaccines are formulated in saline solution and can be applied as topical eye drops.
The vaccine can be entirely self-delivered: Application does not require any needles, does not need the help of a physician and does not require hospitalization.
According to BenMohamed
, injectable vaccines can cost up to six times the expense of the vaccine itself and can raise other complications such as contamination and access issues.
The self-delivered topical vaccines are user-friendly, safe, cost-effective and powerful for global use.
The lipopeptide vaccine is already used in Europe in humans with HIV, but Nesburn and BenMohamed's
group is the first in the world using the lipopeptide vaccine against ocular herpes - thanks, in large part, to the Discovery Eye Foundation
"Developing a vaccine is time-consuming and money-consuming, compared to drug development," BenMohamed
When you link this fact to the high rate of HIV, BenMohamed
said, it may be that having herpes predisposes you to HIV.
In fact, chances of contracting HIV rise 5-6 times in people who have herpes.
Enter the OH vaccine: While an AIDS vaccine has been elusive for nearly two decades, BenMohamed
believes it may be better to first use the lipopeptide vaccine against ocular and genital herpes, so the compromised immune system can be boosted, which could consequently reduce HIV and AIDS.